Class is a loaded subject. The mere mention of it triggers all sorts of insecurity: Do I seem plebian? Are they mocking me? Have I not sufficiently concealed my lower middle-class background beneath a carapace of designer labels? In his 1983 book Class, Paul Fussell noted that the anxiety one feels when the subject of class is mentioned is a gauge of her social class. The upper-class enjoys it because it flatters them. The lower classes donâ€™t care because they canâ€™t change their class identity. Itâ€™s the middle class that gets all worked up, because theyâ€™d like to be upper class, but could still slip down to lower class.
Itâ€™s a touchy subject. So we wonâ€™t talk about class. Letâ€™s talk about cake. In the Philippines, where the gap between rich and poor is so vast they seem to occupy different countries, you can tell a lot about someone by who bakes her cakes. The middle-income groups â€” the C and D demographics â€” buy cake from the big bakery chains. These chains have branches in all the shopping malls, and in countries which have large Filipino communities. The lower-income E and F demographics are too busy worrying about survival to think about cake. The elite A and B demographics may also patronize commercial bakeries, but on the occasions that call for displays of privilege, they refer to a private list.
This list contains the telephone numbers of upper and upper-middle class matrons in Manila who make cakes to order. Letâ€™s call them bespoke bakers. Each one has her own speciality: Mrs Yulo has her strawberry shortcake, Mrs Cunanan her ensaymada, Mrs Vargas her butter cake, and so on. . .
Cake and Class in Emotional Weather Report, today in the Star. By the way, the title has the correct sequence of the frequently-misquoted expression, “You can’t eat your cake and have it too”. I learned this from the Unabomber, but not personally. William Safire in his NYT column on June 12, 1996:
“Correct usage of a much-abused proverb first recorded in the 16th century has become evidence. In paragraph 185 of his 35,000-word “manifesto,” published under duress by The Washington Post and The New York Times, the Unabomber wrote, “As for the negative consequences of eliminating industrial society — well, you can’t eat your cake and have it too — to gain one thing you have to sacrifice another.” In a letter discovered in Kaczynski’s mother’s home — a letter that inexplicably found its way into the media — the same proverb appears in the same words, with the same lack of a comma before the “too.”
“In both instances, the having and the eating were in correct order. Many people err in saying, “You can’t have your cake and eat it, too,” because you can — first you have it, and then you eat it. The impossible is the other way around; to “eat your cake and have it” is the absurdity that makes the point. Both the Unabomber’s creed and the Kaczynski letter had it right, which is more than can be said for half the quoters of the proverb.”